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WHY ARE TEENS SO INFLUENCED BY OLDER GANG MEMBERS?

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TEENS SPEAKING OUT

TEENS SPEAKING OUT

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Don't lose teens to group crime Sunday, August 22, 2010 The State of New Jersey put away a 14-year-old girl for 20 years last week. Sharara Carter was barely 14, hanging out in a rowhouse in Camden, when somehow she got involved in a gang-related incident in February that culminated with the kidnapping, torture and murder of Michael Hawkins, 23, of Mount Holly, and Muriah Huff, 18, of Cinnaminson. The victims were beaten, stabbed, shot, stripped and buried in shallow backyard graves. Huff was beaten with a chair until it fell apart, prosecutors said, and suffocated with a plastic bag a death the prosecution called "heinous," "cruel," and "depraved." Ten individuals, including a Deptford Township 18-year-old, are charged in connection with some of the offenses. Sharara who admitted her role as decoy and would-be slayer is the youngest. That's scary. And it creates lots of questions about the group mentality that leads to crimes like this one. We're not questioning Sharara Carter's sentence, or her involvement here. There are always "bad apples" among young people, capable of horrible acts. But few 14-year-olds are hardened gang members, and fewer still, we'd have to believe, would initiate or participate in such brutal activities if it were not for the contagion, the corrupting influence, of a group of mostly older teens and young adults. If our schools, our elected leaders, our criminal justice system and our families are not prepared to intervene earlier, they'd better be prepared to figure out what to do with Shahara Carter and many more children who will be locked up for violent crimes.

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